Archive for April, 2008|Monthly archive page

Wow: Google sneaking in the backdoor on Digg and others!

A seemingly innocuous post on Google today regarding long forgotten service Measure Map.
Thank you Tech Crunch, this was a phenomenal bit of news that could have been lost in the ether.

However, is it really so innocuous. Let’s see what the service does….in exchange for distributing a Google Analytics pixel on your blog, Google can now offer you stats about your blog interaction. Seems relatively benign, however let’s extrapolate the value and just for fun talk about some of the companies and “spaces” that this can meander Google into.

By allowing users to categorize their blog and merely just by putting the pixel on, Google can aggregate even more signals at a higher frequency about a user interaction with content (in exchange for data reporting).

Possible ancillary / competitive services:

1) Well there is Digg. True it is user that contributes to a portal regarding a news stories worthiness. All Google really needs to do is an opt in service and portal overlay for “find the latest popular stories on Twitter.”

2) There is also Omniture and other web tracking companies (but this one has been happening for some time)

3) What about a BuzzLogic effect whereby Google offers data back to advertisers regarding popular blog posts (on an opt in basis from the blog owner of course)

4) How about Comscore and other publisher-side measurement services (Compete, Alexa) and offering publisher side data on what is transpiring on my blog?

There are many more, however it will be interesting to see the traction this service gets. I intend to review the service and thoroughly review the privacy policy for data usage once it becomes available.

As a note, I am continually impressed with Google’s fastidious detail to aggregating signals.


Mahalo: Yikes…that’s product marketing and data analysis?

Update: CEO Jason Calacanis was nice enough to respond to our post below:

His comments:

fyi: we have a user lab at mahalo at did 75 hours of testing over the last year. All of our site changes are considered deeply with a combination of user testing, user feedback, and metrics testing.

In terms of who’s responding there are normal folk in there, user experience folks, and designers. I would go read the 200+ comments and 50+ notes on the image a day later. Some are very considered, and the feedback while not a perfect roadmap is very helpful.

Talking to users is NEVER a bad idea. Listening to everything they say? well, obviously you don’t want to do taht or you have chaos.

best jason

Jason, thanks kindly for responding to this blog; it is well appreciated. I agree talking to users is never a bad idea; I said as much in my customer service as the new marketing post.

And I agree that if you get user feedback from UI folks and designers, it is priceless. So I will reflect that in the post.

However, two things:

1) I think there is a user fatigue that comes with too much messaging. If everyone twitter’d or flickr’d all their site designs a user would become deluged with noise.

2) You have to ask or beg the question of the feedback: How often do you use Maholo? If not the feedback itself is noise.

My conclusions:

– Talking to users is never a bad idea

– Processing their feedback correctly for the product roadmap is crucial

– Who is the target audience for Mahalo and have you reached out to them effectively through social media circles?

Thanks so much for responding.



I’ve commented before on Mahalo.

Upon a post by their founder on his blog, I am exceedingly worried for their investors.

The title of the post is Social Media Focus Groups as a value for Twitter and other quick-response, signal-frequency services. Most who read this blog know I feel the value of Twitter is in labeling the data with statistics for personal review and reducing the noise.

In terms of the blog post referred here, I couldn’t disagree more on both the use for Twitter and the explanation for the social media focus group.

First, on the social media focus groups, anyone who does online site optimization knows that what users do is very different then what users say. That is nothing new.

Second, on using Twitter and other such services to gain feedback, probably best to use this avenue to comment on large news than rudimentary page designs lest people stop paying attention to your posts. Do I really care if I use a service whether some guide thing is on the left or some links are on the right? Probably not, so I would label that message as spam going forward. If you released a new service that added value, told me about it that way, and I found it immediate value, sure I would be accepting of that message.

Further, as I’ve talked about in past posts, “who” is responding is just as important as what they do. The folks responding to a little usability focus groups on Twitter or even Flickr are probably not the audience that you need to gain and or optimize for to increase growth. Except if these users are UI or design experts that are offering feedback (thank you for the correction).

More data from periphery: Traditional ad units under pressure

A report found on Clickz today by Web research firm Borrell Associatessuggests that, “display and search advertising are losing ground to spending on online promotions and sponsorships.”

Of course, we agree, and cited just that in our post last week.

I am hearkened back to a few comments by reading the Clickz post today.

First, this posta that discusses scaling advertising in social media. I am still bearish on whether a standard ad unit is the lone roadblock to increased media spending. To this writer, the main challenges comes in terms of controlling my brand on content that I don’t control. Though I believe the lack of an ad unit contributes as well.

Second, the notion I’ve discussed a multitude of times when speaking about the power of widget companies. That is, if major brand advertisers are shunning traditional spots (in favor of promotions or immersive products), then the agencies that represent them need to move in this direction as well.
This will involve a herculean stretch for them in terms of production acumen and technology assets.
Clients will want to know who saw the ad, what engagement level they had, and what success metric the agency was striving for, not merely what the reach and frequency of the ad was.

It would seem to me that the first agency that gets there will reap the benefits.

Though that may take more than 3 or 4 years.

More commentary:

Why reach metrics are terribly antiquated

Adify: Selling at the apex before the flight to quality

News today that ad platform company Adify will be bought by Cox Enterprises in an all cash deal.

Congrats to the Adify team on the deal. They assembled quite a bit of value in a short period of time.

It also seems that there sales comes at the right moment. Vertical network plays work by allowing a blend of brand and performance-based advertising; having the brand though is the key.

For example, “Sustain Lane is a green community/network/marketer, however you see it. They need to sell a certain amount of green advertisers to have their effective CPM be, well, effective.

If an ad recession hits, and the first tell tale signs are “WebMD’s numbers last week, then smaller and newer networks (with less volume and history) will have a tougher time earning brand dollars and continually justifying a platform.

This is not say there is doom at for Adify’s program. By bundling an Adify solution with TV inventory or at least the verticalized cable advertisers, it creates an integrated campaign where Cox can create more value.

So a nice win both ways.

This brings a solid base hit back on Adify’s $27M in funding. There should be an indirect corroloaries reviewed to the Rubicon Project and Pubmatic and other ad service-type companies.

Internet Marketing Observations: YOU OWE US NEILSEN

So for those that follow this blog, we ran a post last month that called out Neilsen and Clickz for publishing a report on paid text links by spend that could not have been true.

The title of the post: Neilsen Online: At what point are you embarrassed?

I happened to click on that story today, because it’s skyrocketing up the hit chart today on this blog.

I went back to the Neilsen data source on Clickz.

And to my shock and astonishment, I found a disclaimer around TableofSix being listed as advertiser #10.

It reads, “*After these data were published, Nielsen Online said it learned that the impression counts for Table for Six were inflated, citing an ad collection issue with its sponsored link impressions on It said the issue has been fixed and the data should be normalized effective the week ending April 20, 2008. “

Could we please get a thank you over at IMO for qa’ing your data Neilsen. Next time, you do the homework.

TechCrunch and Mashable: Promenade and masquerade

Good post to write for a Web 2.0-the-gold-is-somewhere-around-here-let-me-sell-you-a-pick-ax Friday.

In past posts, I’ve alluded to some of the value of sites like Mashable and TechCrunch beyond the US Weekly-for-tech-fever.

If anything these sites are even gaining more influence (see graph)

(I through in Valleywag for good measure.)

TechCrunch and Mashable, through the depth and velocity of their coverage, provide a fairly good sounding board for companies looking to acquire talent. If I want to work at a company with buzz, I can just go to either of these sites and scroll through the non-distinct list of sites and generally get a sense of something as a developer that might amuse or even challenge me to code.

However, from the perspective as someone who is frequently consulted, these sites provide a fair bit of disservice to the business side of the equation (investor, start-up CEO, etc.), yet are consistently heralded by the same folks.

Here are some things to consider when distributing or vying for space on these rags:

– If you are looking for a way to “build traffic” to your site, TechCrunch/Mashable are not the ways to do it. The sampling size of traffic that goes there is extremely tech savvy, (i.e.not the audience that Google built their business on)

– If you are company looking to shoehorn your way into a vertical or market by way of a unique feature, your unique feature set just got exposed, probably to most of your competitors. In terms of TechCrunch, they’ll list your competitors on the same post as the one they write about you.

– Your customer service level (through your Contact Us email or fielding calls from any modicum of folks that merely want to sell you a service) probably just increased and disrupted your focus.

– And, not finally, because of the velocity and frequency of coverage of these blogs, brand awareness generated here can be shortlived

Each day I field questions regarding online marketing strategy with someone that says, “Well, shouldn’t I really do blog marketing and try to get on TechCrunch.”

I answer with the following questions:

“Do you already know your metrics?”
“What is your goal of distributing your consumer technology to a tech industry blog?” (Hopefully, the answer is acquire funding or engineers)
“Are you ready for all your competitors to reverse engineer your product for each key feature set and to review the pedigree of your management team?”

If the answer is yes, we know our metrics, we are scaling nicely and we need resources (money or people), then by all means do the pr dance with these blogs. If not, wait on that until it can bring you more value than thrill of seeing your company’s name in lights.

More commentary on this:

From tech luminary Josh Kopelman

Goodbye steak dinner, hello accountability…and a blurb about Nike?

Is the recession or forth coming recession having a big impact in online advertising?

It sure looks that way. It started last week with Google’s announcement and NBC’s shortfall.

Now this week, we see further evidence that there is a flight to accountability happening right in front of our eyes.

Two more pieces of information for you:

Tuesday: Yahoo’s earnings
Yahoo stating, “We are seeing significant growth in class 2 (remnant), very strong growth in revenues and CPMs, with revenues close to doubling in that category.”

Wednesday: WebMD’s warnings
WebMd revised forecasts stating, “Based on current visibility into the second half of 2008, WebMD is updating its financial guidance to reflect a recent shift toward shorter term buying commitments in certain of its customers’ consumer advertising purchases which the Company believes is driven by increased caution in the current business climate.”

Update: Thursday: Scripps Numbers, online up 23% in Q1, cable up 15%, newspapers online flat
Offline newspapers down 8.3% to $156M, online flat at $10M. Seems like some worrisome exposure here going forward on the offline side.
Key stat maybe: Interactive Media revenue was $77.5 million for the first quarter compared with $62.9 million in the first quarter 2007. (Up a shade under 20%)

The difference between WebMD and Yahoo in this case. Yahoo Tier 2 is almost exclusively reliant on performance marketers. WebMD’s inventory is almost exclusively reliant on brand advertising.

This all brought me back to an article in the New York Times written in October of last year on Nike marketing.

It’s a good piece if you have not read it, lots of good stats.
The key takeaways and conclusions:

1) According to NYT, through Advertising Age, only 33% of Nike near $700M budget was spent on traditional media in 2006.
This writer’s take: Display advertising is largely archaic at this point, having existed online for over 10 years. I believe it is fair to lump in traditional Web ad units into “traditional” media. Nike classifies it as advertising that is about “interruption.” Banner advertisements are largely about interruption.

2) A key comment from Stefan Olander, global director for brand connections at Nike: “How can we provide a service that the consumer goes, ‘Wow, you really made this easier for me’?”
This writer’s take: This is precisely what the Web, widgets, social media apps are about. However more importantly it points to a desire for a higher production cost and distribution through virality, not placement.

It will interesting to see further announcements and branded campaigns if or as a recession hits.

More whipping on Lending Tree, more ads on Scrabulous

Played Scrabulous today on Facebook for the first time.

Through 4pm today, I’ve been served 20 Lending Tree ads.

A few problems:

– I don’t own a home
– I don’t need to refinance a home
– I’m playing a game
– There is no frequency cap

And I traced the ad back to’s leadback program. I visited Lending Tree earlier this week and did not take an action on their site.

How is this relevant?
How am I in market?

And Yahoo couldn’t blow away their numbers. Amazing….

Update (4:45): I am now up to 25 ads vs. my cookie…industry standard is 6 per consumer per day.

Random: They should add supporting marketing material to the Scrabulous brand logo that reads, “Where smart people go for online dating?”

Update: (5:15): I’m up to 35 Lending Tree ads with absolutely zero shot for a conversion. I wonder if they have an age filter in there. Cubix or Social Media, but be making a killing. Simplyamazing. As a note, right after that date comment I got a Trojan ad (that’s contextual, perfect)

Final Update: As of 10pm last evening, I had been served 61 LendingTree ads, at which point I became inmarket for EDU ads and UofP through leadback. I guess there was a time-of-day ruleset.

Anyone hounding Arrington about RazorGator? You try scaling Twitter

From the first link on Google.

Quote: “I’m thrilled to join the RazorGator team and I look forward to building a great company,” said J. Michael Arrington, COO of RazorGator. “The market for event tickets has exploded over the last few years, and I believe that RazorGator will become the leading company in the $2 billion plus secondary event ticket market.

We’ll  get back to that.

I don’t have a tech degree and I don’t purport to know anything about scaling and load balancing a system — though I understand the impact it has on a product.

In terms of the challenges of load balancing, I often tell a start-up, “Want to hire a quality CTO, find someone who scaled a load balancing system.”

Michael Arrington’s rant on Blaine Cook is simply unwarranted, but great theatre. That’s it.

One, none us work at Twitter.

Two, we don’t know the current technical dependencies of the system.

No one is saying to Michael, “Hey Stubhub got taken out, what happened with RazorGator?!” In fact, I have no idea about anything in regards to RazorGator….maybe the url scared people off. Who knows?

And further, in public, what is a developer supposed to do? Come armed with a powerpoint that states that his company is going to have trouble scaling. Every company manages the press.

Developers are good at developing, business folks are good at, well, business, and evangelists are good at evangelizing. Maybe Blaine Cook wasn’t a good evangelist. Maybe neither was Michael Arrington at RazorGator. Who knows?

One thing is clear, controvery and page views are the ballywick of Michael Arrington. Nice job in that regard.

Note, just created a new category on our blog: “Managing the press.”




Glam, Stylefeeder, and A good job

Update from

Siva Kumar from was nice enough to respond to this post. Siva, I just checked your uniques, you guys have come quite a way since the days of FatLens and online ticketing comparison shopping.

Are there similar integrated partnerships in the works for along these lines of layered integration? Thanks for responding.


Those of you that read this blog consistently, know that Glam is often a target for criticism and a frequent member of the “gaming the ratings” vertical.

However, the current deal between Stylefeeder and Glam reeks of, well, value. In fact, there is a third participant of this deal,, that is winner as well. Let’s see if the product takes off, but the concept of it makes a ton of sense.

According to Mashable, it works like this. StyleFeeder introduces content on their site in an interface that is designed more appropriately for the constituency, women. Stylefeeder aggregates the users and reduces production cost with “content,” or product feeds. The addition of Glam is pretty smart as well as the added CPM pricing will allow for higher distribution purchasing power to the entity, while putting purchase minded customers in front of the brand advertiser.

The triumvirate creates maximum pricing power for search keywords and maximum revenue per click on list management or other forms of distribution.

Additionally, none of these companies could have harnessed the traffic themselves in a scalable fashion. A deal like this usually doesn’t get done because of the coordination needed, so kudos to the business leads on this one. You could say the short term winner here is Stylefeeder, who managed to insert themselves in with two stronger “brands” with more funding.

To review… provides the backend and the service rate (a large selection of products)
Stylefeeder personalizes the content to increase conversion
Glam serves advertising on top of the content, increasing the CPM, while increasing valuable inventory and reach.

Two thoughts in conclusion:

– Do brand marketers understand the competition for their brand eyeballs in the sense of this partnership? Do they care?

– I’m wondering if will come up with a similar campaign with Sugar or other?